Notwithstanding the fact that the NFL has been the most hospitable sanctuary for the vulgar and the violent, (animal abuse, domestic violence, bar fights etc.), I am hopeful that some good will come of the latest horror story involving the Raven’s Ray Rice.
It is not coincidental that violence against the vulnerable allows for multiple targets in the same setting. In other words spousal abuse and animal abuse, abuse of the disabled and elder abuse and so on and so forth. The crime is the same – the opportunity reveals the victims. These are all parts of one deranged whole.
As early as the mid-nineties spcaLA (not affiliated with any other spca) began a domestic violence program, (Animal Safety Net) designed to provide a safe place for pets of victims of domestic violence thus removing a very significant barrier which often prevented a victim from leaving an unsafe situation. The catalyst for this involved a woman who was repeatedly beaten by her spouse who (the spouse) also tortured the family cat in front of an 8 year old child. The woman killed her spouse and then committed suicide leaving the child and the cat to fend for themselves. Since then we have provided peace for dogs, cats, horses, fish, rats, reptiles and hamsters while their human companions sought shelter and a path to a sane life.
Today, despite the fact that there is more awareness of this cycle of violence, more cross training on the issues, and more mandatory reporters there is still a reluctance to get involved as evidenced by the willingness of both the NFL and a prosecutor to look the other way by handing down de minis sanctions (2 game suspension and a diversionary counseling program) which would have allowed Rice’s record to remain clean. Then, the surfacing of the video showing the actual violence ended his career.
Let us not waste the opportunity offered by this high profile case. Friends, neighbors, social workers and law enforcement need to see the entire crime scene. If called for animal cruelty – look for domestic violence and vice versa. There could be another victim in front of you, that blinders built and sustained over centuries of looking the other way, who will finally be seen as a homicide statistic.
Madeline Bernstein is president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles.